Energy transitions bring about changes in the infrastructural energy system and in the social sphere. Crucially, these changes touch upon power relations. Thus, studying the social order through the perspective of the energy system should include an understanding of “power”. Dispositive thinking and governmentality studies are two promising approaches for conceptualizing power relations. Whereas dispositive thinking is important for understanding powerful and strategic socio-material configurations, the concept of governmentality provides a framework for the analysis of how and why individuals adopt certain subject positions in the face of technologies of power. The value of the two approaches is illustrated with an empirical case study from the German Energiewende: renewable energy development in north-western Brandenburg. The paper concludes by comparing the relative strengths and weaknesses of dispositive thinking and governmentality studies and by discussing how further research on the role of power in energy systems can be conceptualized.

Gailing, L. (2016). Transforming energy systems by transforming power relations. Insights from dispositive thinking and governmentality studies. Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 1-19.